AktiVax secures HHS contract valued at up to $55M

BOULDER — AktiVax Inc., a Boulder-based drug-products company, has secured a contract worth as much as $55 million to develop an improved auto-injector for nerve-agent antidotes.

The contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is worth at least $15 million over 18 months but can be extended for four years for up to $55 million. AktiVax will work with HHS to develop a new device that can easily administer a drug to reverse damage inflicted by organophosphates, a class of chemicals that includes nerve agents such as Sarin and VX.

“Chemical agents can kill within hours,” Rick Bright, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, said in a prepared statement. “To save lives, we need products at the ready that allow local first responders to act immediately.”

Organophospates damage enzymes that control the human nervous system, resulting in paralysis of muscles needed to breathe, damage to parts of the brain that control breathing and uncontrollable seizures.

The federal government stockpiles nerve-agent antidotes to combat those effects. One antidote is known as 2-PAM, or pralidoxime chloride, which is administered with an auto-injector, a pen-sized drug-delivery device. Auto-injectors for 2-PAM are no longer manufactured and originally were intended for military use.

AktiVax will advance development of a new auto-injector platform.

AktiVax is based at 3012 Sterling Circle in Boulder but will relocate to Broomfield, with plans to increase its workforce from seven to more than 20, according to the Denver Business Journal.